Oil prospecting in Uganda

Oil prospecting in Uganda

Guidelines for Business Activities: Sharing biodiversity data

Context: Three companies have been prospecting for oil near Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) in Uganda. The park, which has been a protected area for more than 50 years, is home to many threatened species and is an important site in the Albertine Rift. It has been identified as a KBA for savannah elephants, and Rüppell’s griffon vulture. Rothschild’s giraffe would be an additional trigger species if it is accepted as a species rather than subspecies. Exploratory drilling has already taken place, and roads are being planned close to and within parts of the wider Murchison Falls Protected Area (MFPA) which includes MFNP and other contiguous protected areas. All companies have agreed, informally, to keep to the same biodiversity standards, although they have not made public commitments to follow the mitigation hierarchy.

Risks

  • Disturbance of wildlife through drilling, infrastructure development and an influx of people to the area seeking work.
  • Development of oil pipelines in the MFPA to a holding facility outside the park.
  • Upgrading roads, most probably along existing roadways, facilitating access to the park (e.g. for poaching), direct impacts on vegetation and increased risk of road kills from fast-moving traffic (a major problem for many mammals).
  • Construction of a bridge across the Nile River.
  • Increasing human settlement in the area and the subsequent demand for resources increased demand for fuelwood (which is already unsustainable).

Responses – a mixture of avoidance and minimisation, followed by restoration:

  • Baseline surveys of mammals and vegetation have been carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Society to provide maps of the sensitive areas to identify and avoid critical habitat trigger species including three KBA trigger species for MFPA.
  • Most new infrastructure will avoid impacts on priority areas, but infrastructure designs are not always open for consultation and input.
  • Demand for a bridge has been reduced, but it is still planned for development.
  • The exploratory drilling sites have for the most part been successfully restored.
  • A landscape standard approach has been agreed between the companies to mitigate impacts, although this agreement remains informal.